Explaining illness with evil: Pathogen prevalence fosters moral vitalism

Bastian BROCK*, Christin-Melanie VAUCLAIR, Steve LOUGHNAN, Paul BAIN, Ashwini ASHOKKUMAR, Maja BECKER, Michał BILEWICZ, Emma COLLIER-BAKER, Carla CRESPO, Paul EASTWICK, Ronald FISCHER, Malte FRIESE, Ángel GÓMEZ, Valeschka GUERRA, José Luis GUEVARA CASTELLANOS, Katja HANKE, Nic HOOPER, Li-Li HUANG, Shi JUNQI, Minoru KARASAWAPeter KUPPENS, Siri LEKNES, Müjde PEKER, Cesar PELAY, Afroditi PINA, Marianna SACHKOVA, Tamar SAGUY, Mia SILFVER-KUHALAMPI, Florencia SORTHEIX, Jennifer TONG, Wai Lan Victoria YEUNG, Jacob DUFFY, William SWANN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

Abstract

Pathogens represent a significant threat to human health leading to the emergence of strategies designed to help manage their negative impact. We examined how spiritual beliefs developed to explain and predict the devastating effects of pathogens and spread of infectious disease. Analysis of existing data in Studies 1 and 2 suggests that moral vitalism (beliefs about spiritual forces of evil) is higher in geographical regions characterized by historical higher levels of pathogens. Furthermore, drawing on a sample of 3,140 participants from 28 countries in Study 3, we found that historical higher levels of pathogens were associated with stronger endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs. Furthermore, endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs statistically mediated the previously reported relationship between pathogen prevalence and conservative ideologies, suggesting these beliefs reinforce behavioral strategies which function to prevent infection. We conclude that moral vitalism may be adaptive: by emphasizing concerns over contagion, it provided an explanatory model that enabled human groups to reduce rates of contagious disease.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume286
Issue number1914
Early online date30 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Fingerprint

Vitalism
Pathogens
pathogen
pathogens
Geographical regions
geographical region
infectious disease
ideology
infectious diseases
Communicable Diseases
human health
data analysis
Health
Infection
infection

Bibliographical note

This research was supported by the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (B.B., P.B. and W.B.S.: grant no. DP110102632).

Keywords

  • pathogens
  • morality
  • spiritual belief
  • vitalism
  • disease

Cite this

BROCK, B., VAUCLAIR, C-M., LOUGHNAN, S., BAIN, P., ASHOKKUMAR, A., BECKER, M., ... SWANN, W. (2019). Explaining illness with evil: Pathogen prevalence fosters moral vitalism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286(1914). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1576
BROCK, Bastian ; VAUCLAIR, Christin-Melanie ; LOUGHNAN, Steve ; BAIN, Paul ; ASHOKKUMAR, Ashwini ; BECKER, Maja ; BILEWICZ, Michał ; COLLIER-BAKER, Emma ; CRESPO, Carla ; EASTWICK, Paul ; FISCHER, Ronald ; FRIESE, Malte ; GÓMEZ, Ángel ; GUERRA, Valeschka ; GUEVARA CASTELLANOS, José Luis ; HANKE, Katja ; HOOPER, Nic ; HUANG, Li-Li ; JUNQI, Shi ; KARASAWA, Minoru ; KUPPENS, Peter ; LEKNES, Siri ; PEKER, Müjde ; PELAY, Cesar ; PINA, Afroditi ; SACHKOVA, Marianna ; SAGUY, Tamar ; SILFVER-KUHALAMPI, Mia ; SORTHEIX, Florencia ; TONG, Jennifer ; YEUNG, Wai Lan Victoria ; DUFFY, Jacob ; SWANN, William. / Explaining illness with evil: Pathogen prevalence fosters moral vitalism. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2019 ; Vol. 286, No. 1914.
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abstract = "Pathogens represent a significant threat to human health leading to the emergence of strategies designed to help manage their negative impact. We examined how spiritual beliefs developed to explain and predict the devastating effects of pathogens and spread of infectious disease. Analysis of existing data in Studies 1 and 2 suggests that moral vitalism (beliefs about spiritual forces of evil) is higher in geographical regions characterized by historical higher levels of pathogens. Furthermore, drawing on a sample of 3,140 participants from 28 countries in Study 3, we found that historical higher levels of pathogens were associated with stronger endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs. Furthermore, endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs statistically mediated the previously reported relationship between pathogen prevalence and conservative ideologies, suggesting these beliefs reinforce behavioral strategies which function to prevent infection. We conclude that moral vitalism may be adaptive: by emphasizing concerns over contagion, it provided an explanatory model that enabled human groups to reduce rates of contagious disease.",
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author = "Bastian BROCK and Christin-Melanie VAUCLAIR and Steve LOUGHNAN and Paul BAIN and Ashwini ASHOKKUMAR and Maja BECKER and Michał BILEWICZ and Emma COLLIER-BAKER and Carla CRESPO and Paul EASTWICK and Ronald FISCHER and Malte FRIESE and {\'A}ngel G{\'O}MEZ and Valeschka GUERRA and {GUEVARA CASTELLANOS}, {Jos{\'e} Luis} and Katja HANKE and Nic HOOPER and Li-Li HUANG and Shi JUNQI and Minoru KARASAWA and Peter KUPPENS and Siri LEKNES and M{\"u}jde PEKER and Cesar PELAY and Afroditi PINA and Marianna SACHKOVA and Tamar SAGUY and Mia SILFVER-KUHALAMPI and Florencia SORTHEIX and Jennifer TONG and YEUNG, {Wai Lan Victoria} and Jacob DUFFY and William SWANN",
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BROCK, B, VAUCLAIR, C-M, LOUGHNAN, S, BAIN, P, ASHOKKUMAR, A, BECKER, M, BILEWICZ, M, COLLIER-BAKER, E, CRESPO, C, EASTWICK, P, FISCHER, R, FRIESE, M, GÓMEZ, Á, GUERRA, V, GUEVARA CASTELLANOS, JL, HANKE, K, HOOPER, N, HUANG, L-L, JUNQI, S, KARASAWA, M, KUPPENS, P, LEKNES, S, PEKER, M, PELAY, C, PINA, A, SACHKOVA, M, SAGUY, T, SILFVER-KUHALAMPI, M, SORTHEIX, F, TONG, J, YEUNG, WLV, DUFFY, J & SWANN, W 2019, 'Explaining illness with evil: Pathogen prevalence fosters moral vitalism', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 286, no. 1914. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1576

Explaining illness with evil: Pathogen prevalence fosters moral vitalism. / BROCK, Bastian; VAUCLAIR, Christin-Melanie; LOUGHNAN, Steve; BAIN, Paul; ASHOKKUMAR, Ashwini; BECKER, Maja; BILEWICZ, Michał; COLLIER-BAKER, Emma; CRESPO, Carla; EASTWICK, Paul; FISCHER, Ronald; FRIESE, Malte; GÓMEZ, Ángel; GUERRA, Valeschka; GUEVARA CASTELLANOS, José Luis; HANKE, Katja; HOOPER, Nic; HUANG, Li-Li; JUNQI, Shi; KARASAWA, Minoru; KUPPENS, Peter; LEKNES, Siri; PEKER, Müjde; PELAY, Cesar; PINA, Afroditi; SACHKOVA, Marianna; SAGUY, Tamar; SILFVER-KUHALAMPI, Mia; SORTHEIX, Florencia; TONG, Jennifer; YEUNG, Wai Lan Victoria; DUFFY, Jacob; SWANN, William.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 286, No. 1914, 11.2019.

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

TY - JOUR

T1 - Explaining illness with evil: Pathogen prevalence fosters moral vitalism

AU - BROCK, Bastian

AU - VAUCLAIR, Christin-Melanie

AU - LOUGHNAN, Steve

AU - BAIN, Paul

AU - ASHOKKUMAR, Ashwini

AU - BECKER, Maja

AU - BILEWICZ, Michał

AU - COLLIER-BAKER, Emma

AU - CRESPO, Carla

AU - EASTWICK, Paul

AU - FISCHER, Ronald

AU - FRIESE, Malte

AU - GÓMEZ, Ángel

AU - GUERRA, Valeschka

AU - GUEVARA CASTELLANOS, José Luis

AU - HANKE, Katja

AU - HOOPER, Nic

AU - HUANG, Li-Li

AU - JUNQI, Shi

AU - KARASAWA, Minoru

AU - KUPPENS, Peter

AU - LEKNES, Siri

AU - PEKER, Müjde

AU - PELAY, Cesar

AU - PINA, Afroditi

AU - SACHKOVA, Marianna

AU - SAGUY, Tamar

AU - SILFVER-KUHALAMPI, Mia

AU - SORTHEIX, Florencia

AU - TONG, Jennifer

AU - YEUNG, Wai Lan Victoria

AU - DUFFY, Jacob

AU - SWANN, William

N1 - This research was supported by the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (B.B., P.B. and W.B.S.: grant no. DP110102632).

PY - 2019/11

Y1 - 2019/11

N2 - Pathogens represent a significant threat to human health leading to the emergence of strategies designed to help manage their negative impact. We examined how spiritual beliefs developed to explain and predict the devastating effects of pathogens and spread of infectious disease. Analysis of existing data in Studies 1 and 2 suggests that moral vitalism (beliefs about spiritual forces of evil) is higher in geographical regions characterized by historical higher levels of pathogens. Furthermore, drawing on a sample of 3,140 participants from 28 countries in Study 3, we found that historical higher levels of pathogens were associated with stronger endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs. Furthermore, endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs statistically mediated the previously reported relationship between pathogen prevalence and conservative ideologies, suggesting these beliefs reinforce behavioral strategies which function to prevent infection. We conclude that moral vitalism may be adaptive: by emphasizing concerns over contagion, it provided an explanatory model that enabled human groups to reduce rates of contagious disease.

AB - Pathogens represent a significant threat to human health leading to the emergence of strategies designed to help manage their negative impact. We examined how spiritual beliefs developed to explain and predict the devastating effects of pathogens and spread of infectious disease. Analysis of existing data in Studies 1 and 2 suggests that moral vitalism (beliefs about spiritual forces of evil) is higher in geographical regions characterized by historical higher levels of pathogens. Furthermore, drawing on a sample of 3,140 participants from 28 countries in Study 3, we found that historical higher levels of pathogens were associated with stronger endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs. Furthermore, endorsement of moral vitalistic beliefs statistically mediated the previously reported relationship between pathogen prevalence and conservative ideologies, suggesting these beliefs reinforce behavioral strategies which function to prevent infection. We conclude that moral vitalism may be adaptive: by emphasizing concerns over contagion, it provided an explanatory model that enabled human groups to reduce rates of contagious disease.

KW - pathogens

KW - morality

KW - spiritual belief

KW - vitalism

KW - disease

UR - https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4695755

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85074290879&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1098/rspb.2019.1576

DO - 10.1098/rspb.2019.1576

M3 - Journal Article (refereed)

C2 - 31662082

VL - 286

JO - Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

JF - Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

SN - 0962-8452

IS - 1914

ER -